Rebirth of Reason

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Sunday, February 8, 2009 - 2:20amSanction this postReply

These three, among other sessions at the Pacific Division Meeting, would be of interest to some RoR readers:

Colloquium Laws and Naturalism
(10 April, 11:00 a.m–Noon)

Speaker: Patrick McGivern
“Fundamental Laws and Counterfactual Stability”

Commentator: Katrina Elliott

Symposium Theories of Lawhood in the Sciences
(10 April, 4:00–6:00 p.m.)

Speaker: Jonathan Cohen
“A Better Best System Account of Lawhood”

Commentators: Paul Bartha and Barry Ward

RoR connection.


Philosophy of Time Society
(9 April, 7:00–10:00 p.m.)

Topic: Presentism and Truthmaking


Thomas M. Crisp
“Presentism, Powers, and Truthmaking”

Michael Tooley
“Presentism and Truthmakers”

Alex Baia
“Presentism and the Grounding of Truth”

RoR connection.

(Edited by Stephen Boydstun on 2/08, 2:23am)

Post 1

Friday, March 27, 2009 - 7:11amSanction this postReply

The title of Onkar Ghate’s paper is “Ayn Rand and the Foundation Stones of a Soul.”

This paper explores three issues central to Rand’s conception of man as a being of self-made soul: self-esteem, sense-of-life, psycho-epistemology. Dr. Ghate draws upon the following texts:

“The Goal of My Writing” – RM
“Philosophy: Who Needs It” – PWNI
“This is John Galt Speaking” – AS
“The Objectivist Ethics” – VS
“The Metaphysical and the Man-Made” – PWNI
“Philosophy and Sense of Life” – RM
Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology
“Basic Principles of Literature” – RM
“The Age of Envy” – NL
“Of Living Death” – VR
“Altruism as Appeasement” – VR
“Causality versus Duty” – PWNI
“Art and Sense of Life” – RM
The Fountainhead
“How to Read (and Not to Write)” – The Ayn Rand Letter
“The Missing Link” – PWNI
“Selfishness without a Self” – PWNI
“Egalitarianism and Inflation” – PWNI
“For the New Intellectual” – FNI
“The Comprachicos” – NL

“The Objectivist Theory of Volition” – The Objectivist (TO)
“Mental Health versus Mysticism and Self-Sacrifice” – VS
“Self-Esteem” – TO
“Pseudo-Self-Esteem” – The Objectivist Newsletter (ON)
“Psycho-Epistemology” – (ON)

Post 2

Friday, March 27, 2009 - 11:33amSanction this postReply
This sounds like a great bunch of papers/presentations. Makes me want to pack my bags. Heck, maybe I will. ;-)

Post 3

Friday, March 27, 2009 - 12:30pmSanction this postReply
The title of Onkar Ghate’s paper is “Ayn Rand and the Foundation Stones of a Soul.”

Is that a change from “Reason, Choice, and the Creation of One’s Own Character”?

Are you going or do you have his paper? If yes, we expect an extensive summary. :-)

Post 4

Friday, March 27, 2009 - 12:50pmSanction this postReply
The second is the title of the conference session; the first is one of the papers to be delivered.

The easiest way to get the papers is to go to www.aynrandsociety.org and join.  A contributing membership (you don't have to belong to the APA) is $30, and you help an organization that's doing a lot of good.

(I couldn't help noticing that an ARI loyalist is quoting and acknowledging Branden.  Ghate snidely describes Branden as a "junior colleague" but, unlike his associates, he doesn't see a need to attribute Branden's writings to Rand (Mayhew) or Peikoff (Smith).  I feel like one of those Kremlinologists who used to keep an eye on movie reviews or comedy clubs in order to guess what the next foreign-policy initiative might be.)

Fixed the link after Jetton's suggestion.

(Edited by Peter Reidy on 3/27, 1:16pm)

Post 5

Friday, March 27, 2009 - 12:50pmSanction this postReply
I don't have that paper. Is it online? I trust this title is not a re-hash--surely not...?
The thought of going is chewing away in the back of my mind.

Nix that, Peter supplied the answer before I could get it asked.

(Edited by Mindy Newton on 3/27, 12:52pm)

Post 6

Friday, March 27, 2009 - 1:07pmSanction this postReply
Thanks, Peter. You need to fix the spelling in your link.

Post 7

Saturday, March 28, 2009 - 5:21amSanction this postReply

In the Introduction for his paper, Onkar Ghate reviews the basic reason Rand gave for writing fiction and how that entailed her defining a new philosophy as a means to her literary end. He reviews the basic questions and purpose of philosophy according to Rand, why the individual appeals to abstract ideas to answer those questions, and what is the integrative character of those of abstract ideas.

Ghate introduces the Rand’s conception of the human soul with its element of choice. By examining Rand’s concepts of self-esteem, sense of life, and psycho-epistemology, Ghate elaborates Rand’s conception of soul and how making one’s own is intertwined with one’s answers to basic philosophic questions.

This paper is currently available to paid members of the Ayn Rand Society. It will be available in hard copy to anyone who attends this session at the Pacific Division Meeting of the APA. Ghate’s is from an essay, still in draft, that he is writing for the forthcoming collection Ayn Rand: A Companion to Her Works and Thought, which is being edited by Allan Gotthelf and Greg Salmieri.

Post 8

Saturday, March 28, 2009 - 8:36amSanction this postReply
I'm curious, Stephen, if it can be explained without much trouble, whether Ghate's purpose is chiefly to explain Rand's philosophical positions, or to explain her philosophical contributions.


(Edited by Mindy Newton on 3/28, 8:38am)

Post 9

Saturday, March 28, 2009 - 1:01pmSanction this postReply


It is the former only for this paper. Ghata does not attempt to set any relationships of Rand’s thought to other thinkers in this area. His is a fresh look at Rand’s positions, distilled from a good many of her texts, including fiction, as well as those early compositions of Nathaniel Branden. The citation of sources is finely grained all along the way. The forthcoming book to which Ghata is contributing will consist of guides that “chart the scope and terrain of Rand’s many writings and trace the interconnections among some of the central ideas in her thought.”

I would expect the comments by Jonathan Jacobs to concern not only Dr. Ghata’s representation of Rand, but any errors or inadequacies he sees in Rand’s thought in this area.

Post 10

Saturday, March 28, 2009 - 2:14pmSanction this postReply
Along with this paper acknowledging Branden, am wondering, what with it being in essence a part of a forthcoming collection, whether that acknowledging will carry over to the collection...

Is there to be a counter-commenting to Jacobs' ?
(Edited by robert malcom on 3/28, 2:15pm)

Post 11

Saturday, March 28, 2009 - 3:49pmSanction this postReply


I am hoping that those citations of Branden do carry over into the final work. I do not throw away the good ideas of anyone. I kept the ideas and acknowledge their generators and their fine expositors. This you may see, for example, in the last few paragraphs of this study.

There will surely be an opportunity for Ghata to respond to the comments of Jacobs and for stimulating audience discussion, with questions for both of the presenters.

(Edited by Stephen Boydstun on 3/28, 3:54pm)

Post 12

Monday, March 30, 2009 - 6:03amSanction this postReply

Note on Character and Choice

Realistic, Rational Variation

Kelley on Virtue and Character

Peikoff on Pride and Self-Esteem
Pages 303–10 of Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand

Tara Smith on Pride and Character
Pages 225–32 of Ayn Rand’s Normative Ethics

(Edited by Stephen Boydstun on 3/31, 4:49am)

Post 13

Sunday, April 5, 2009 - 8:14amSanction this postReply

In his comments on Onkar Ghate’s paper, Jonathan Jacobs will argue that one’s power to create one’s own character, while substantial in certain ways, is less than that envisioned by Ayn Rand because of limits to the plasticity of character and because of the relation between emotion and judgment.

Jacobs uses some of Aristotle’s views from which to criticize Rand’s. By our choices of actions, on Aristotle’s view, we habituate ourselves in ways that select what will become our second nature. We are self-forming of our character, but we cannot choose to have whatever character we would like, regardless of individual temperament, tendencies, capabilities, and influences upon us. We are self-forming to the extent that we determine what is made of those standing elements in certain ways.

Having a certain disposition may allow acting against it and eventually changing it, but some dispositions have become so settled one would not try to change them. They have become not just a second nature, but a fixed one. An action may be bad or good, yet, with a disposition that has become fixed, the agent is bound to take the action in a practical sense. She is causally able to do otherwise, but she will not.

Jacobs maintains that we remain morally responsible for actions that spring from our fixed second nature. There was voluntariness in coming to have that character. Nonetheless, we cannot reform our character into any we might aspire to.

Rand had stressed that one has implicit views of life. Jacobs thinks “there may be significant respects in which they shape horizons and limits, and in which they shape a person’s sense of how the project of self-formation should be regarded” (4). How transparent are the significance of our past choices and influences? If they are necessarily only translucent, our effectiveness in our own formation is reduced.

Jacobs quotes Aristotle at Nichomachean Ethics 1114b30–1115a4. “Actions and states, however, are not voluntary in the same way. For we are in control of actions from the beginning to the end, when we know the particulars. With states, however, we are in control of the beginning, but do not know, any more than with sickness, what the cumulative effect of particular actions will be. Nonetheless, since it was up to us to exercise a capacity either this way or another way, states are voluntary.”

Jacobs then turns to the role of emotions in moral life. He allows that emotions contain a cognitive element, but he also holds “that the education of sensibility, the habituation of affect, is itself important to the acquisition of abilities deployed in judgment and reasoning. . . . That does not mean that emotions drive judgment. It is a point about the role of emotion in acquiring the capacity to make certain kinds of judgments” (6). This does not mean that our thinking is not voluntary, but it does raise the question of how much authority one can exercise over one’s psychoepistemology, and this will have implications for one’s self-esteem.

Post 14

Sunday, April 5, 2009 - 11:09amSanction this postReply
I am offhand inclined to agree with Jacobs regarding the plasticity issue, that there are limits that proscribe some of the extensiveness of Rand's view - at least in terms of the length of one's life experiences having accumulative 'set' effects that make for changing much more difficult, in general, the older one is [again, tho, this is 'in general', as there is a wide range of differences in flexibility among individuals, more so than I think is generally appreciated among many if not most] - as well as the initial variation among newborns, and carried forward...

There is this matter, too, of the fact that while reason is our fundamental means of survival, it needs be taught, at least to some extent - it is not an automatic but a skill or set of skills, and further, to be most effective [eg. beyond 'common sense', the haphazard manner most use it], it needs be learned to be valued in the full sense... otherwise, those emotions indeed hold more sway over responses than otherwise, and counter character development [from a positive stance] as consequence...
(Edited by robert malcom on 4/05, 11:15am)

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